Category Archives: life things

Blogging….. I would love to do this more, but just don’t.  I really need to figure out a way to make it a habit.

HEAT… it has been hecka hot in the East Bay area of the San Francisco Bay, at or close to 100 degrees for 3 days and my little house has no air conditioning, and limited insulation.  A whole different blog post about why I have not changed that situation, but the short version is $$$, the end.

But today I had a client come by and when she walked in from the 90 degree outside into the 73 degree house, she commented on how nice it was to have the air conditioning on, as her hubby did not like the bills.  So I told her, no air conditioning. She could not believe it. Figured I had to share how to do it.

You cannot do it if you are not detail oriented (that’s the politically correct way to say “a bit of an anal control freak!”) .

The first thing is to stop adding heat to your house – so  look over each room in your home and figure out what you have that generates heat and try to eliminate or control it.  That means incandescent lights – out!  Take a look at your TV and feel the back of it – it is hot, it is hotter when on, but it is even hot when off –  get a power strip –plug in the TV and the DVD player, turn off the power strip when you are not using it.   The same goes for the printer, computer, game system you get it if there is a little power light, feel it – warm then unplug it.

Ok now you need to get the house as cool as you can – the coolest time is at night, so when the air outside is cool get it inside!  Open windows and doors, including the garage door (even if it is a little bit) to let the cool air in.  This works great when you are awake in the evening, but  it will get late and you will want to lock up to go to bed.  Living Gourmet does not recommend leaving your house insecure in a effort to keep it cool, so what I did is close all the windows except one at each end of the house. In one window place a large commercial fan (I got a table top one at Home Depot a few years ago it is about 24 inches across) place it so it is blowing out. Turn it on to high. Close and lock every other window and door except the one at the other end of the house.  Leave that one open.  For me, this means that one window is in the kitchen and the other is the master bed room. The fan will pull air in from the open window, through the house and blow it out.  I can knock 10 degrees off the inside temperature in 6-7 hours, and the fan costs very little to run.

When you wake up, you’ll find yourself in a cool house.  If you are like me and get up early, open everything back up!  You can generally drop the temperature a few more degrees in the morning and every little bit helps.  As the sun comes up and begins to shine in the windows close the blinds/shades/drapes.  Do NOT let the sun in!!  When the outside temp is the same as the inside temp shut the windows and doors. Open drapes as the sun is no longer shinning in the windows, you’ll change which window covers are closed as the sun moves.  The other trick is to not go in and out too much. Every time you open the door you are letting out cool air and letting in hot air.  During the day, try not to generate heat.  Don’t make a batch of cookies at 3 in the afternoon or turn the oven on.  You would be supprised how much ‘baking’ you can do on a barbeque.  I can keep a 20-30 degree temperature difference between the inside and outside of my house and this is with all the crummy insulation in my house.  I do have insulated doors, and double pane windows, but no wall insulation and the roof is r13.  Most newer homes will have so much more insulating potential, that you should easily be able to do what I do.


The other upside is all the money you save by leaving the air conditioner off. And really, who doesn’t like more money?




2011 was a busy year for Living Gourmet.  Living Gourmet has had two parts Living Gourmet – Classes, and Living Gourmet – Gardening Services: individual and small businesses, but in 2012 I have added a 3rd component.  Welcome to Living Gourmet – Machine Embroidery!

Classes – What a fun year, Danville community center invited me to teach there in addition to Dublin and Livermore.  Summer was kids cooking camps at Dublin Community Center – lots of baking, bbq, and making meals.   Fall was canning, apricot brandy jam, tomato sauce and more.  Winter was holiday baking and gingerbread houses – check out the cute pictures under the Photos category!  The houses kids and their folks made are beautiful!  My 2012 class list can be found under the Classes or Announcements category.  I took some classes “on the road” and taught in folk’s homes – what fun for all of us!  Customized to specific desires – so not just pickles, but a dill pickle and pickled beet class for example.

Gardening –  I added my first commercial account, I am now maintaining the patio/garden area at Gay 90’s Pizza in Pleasanton (great pizza, BTW!).  I also have a number of individual gardens I maintain, both edible and pretty.   I have done a garden plan for a condo yard, it is the first full yard I have designed and I am looking forward to implementing it in 2012.  January is trim your roses time, so grab those clippers or give me a call!

Machine Embroidery – I have bought an existing home based commercial Machine Embroidery business and moved it to my home.   I have commercial contracts and folks I have done work with, but am looking to help businesses with embroidered logo needs and to help each of you with personalized gifts, and fun items for your home.   The ideas are endless, initials, letterman jackets, names, artwork on most any fabric item…. This past month, I did a couple of sweat shirts (one with theatre masks, one with a pig), names on burp cloths for baby, family names on blankets.   What can I do for you?


Below are pictures of the sweatshirt:

Wow, long time no post.  Things have been quite busy since my last post, and are finally settling down a bit and these updates will be a bit more frequent. In the mean time, here is a tip about ganache.

When heating chocolate it must be done on the lowest temperature possible.  I recommend NEVER melting chocolate in the microwave, it is too hard to control the heat.  The 2 best ways to melt chocolate is either in a double boiler or by pouring hot milk/cream over the chocolate.  Chocolate too hot will burn and /or separate.   Dark chocolate burns at 120, milk and white at 110.  Remember your body temperature is 98…. Chocolate is burning at the temperature of an average shower(American’s average shower temp is 107-126).  Burned chocolate smells burnt, loses it’s shine and becomes muddy.  If it has just barely burned, take it off the heat and stir in more chocolate chunks which may rescue it, but if it is smelling the taste will be off and there is nothing you can do to save it.

Unwinding after a great Mexican Fiesta Dinner class, and trying to assimilate the info (delivered during class by a city staffer) that bin Laden is dead… Its been almost 10 years since 9/11/01 and for all that time we had been looking for him, or not looking, getting side tracked – caught up in other issues… and now he is dead… I remember thinking we go in get this guy and move on… how hard can it be?  you are a day late with a check for any bill or returning a library book and they find you – BUT this is CA, and that is a different world with different priorities and points of view.  I wonder if this will change what we do next, how we handle our involvement in the middle east, once I thought it would – now I am not so sure.

But on a foodie note!  Mexican class was really good! enchiladas, chile rellanos (my favorite!) and salsa, guacamole….. and mango ice… so nice!  I really love this class, we all know and love this food and some think it is so difficult it is fun to have folks see just how easy it is.

I am a great reader, but usually refrain from making recommendations because everyone has different tastes… but this is a non-fiction that talks about how folks lived in the depression.  Little Heathens, by Mildred Armstrong Kalish.  Great recipes, great insight on how to make do, if you are looking at being more self  sufficient this is a great read to see how others did it.  There are ideas on jam, making pumpkin filling from a pumpkin you grow yourself, homemade marshmallows, and so much more.  I checked it out from the library.


I went to a talk on Edible Gardening, I was really interested, as I am slowly trying to make my yard support me.  Veggies, fruit, flowers (they make me happy), herbs, craft materials.  So off I went to my Garden Club looking forward to the talk.  Well, I have decided I could do the talk and make it better!  The talk was a bunch of pretty pictures of yards that were multiple acres with gardeners, and thousands of dollars of professional help.  Well that is great, and the pictures were fab! but as the friends I went with and I, that is not reality for 90% of us!

So I am going to work out my talk here for you, and then put it together, and take it on the road.

Let’s start with the real yard I live with, it is a traditional suburban yard, about 1/4 of an acre with a 3 bedroom house and 2 car garage taking up a chunk of it.  My neighborhood is full of traditional California front yards, a few plants close to the house, and then grass.  Some have a mature tree, some don’t.  Backyards are fenced, some have a small veggie garden, all have a big chunk of grass, most have a tree or two, side yards are small 10-15 feet on each side, used mostly for access and garbage cans.

Mine has not been to different, the veggie garden was bigger, more trees – front has 3 shade trees, the back has one shade tree, and 4 fruit trees.

I am going to take some pictures and will be back to post them!

I am so lucky to live in a great neighborhood- I live in Dublin, CA a typical California suburb,  single family homes, mostly owner occupied, some who’s yards are really nice, some so-so and only a few really iffy.  But the mix of folks are great, there are employed, business owners, unemployed, retired, single, married, kids, no kids…. but mostly we know each other, we say hi, we visit, and most important we care.  And we share the fruits of our gardens.  There is one house that planted zucchini… and we are all benefiting, one with a orange tree that goes nuts in the winter, the sweetest tiny tomatoes come from another home. It is so easy in this world to shut others out, life gets busy!  but it is important to connect and share.  I can not imagine how much smaller my life would be without my neighbors. 

Really I do not live in a special place, I just live in a place where a few of us have been willing to reach out.  When the new person moves in, deliver cookies, a few pieces of home grown fruit or veggies and amazing things will happen. 

I challenge you to reach out.  Take a moment and say hi, share some little thing,  and watch your world blossom!